Royal Bank of Scotland says the government should be able to start selling its stake within a year, as it reported first-quarter profits of 393 million pounds ($611 million) — compared to a loss of 1.5 billion in the same three months last year.

The bank's chairman, Philip Hampton, says its recovery would be "substantially complete" by the middle of 2014 and that RBS, which is 81 percent owned by the taxpayer after it was rescued by the government in 2008, would begin preparing a prospectus to sell to investors.

Though it was the bank's first quarterly profit since 2011, analysts say operating profit was below expectations and shares were down 4.4 percent.

Analyst Ian Gordon says the profit is no cause for celebration as underlying performance is weak.